Chapbook VI Winners

Judges comments on the quality of entries.

In selecting the prize winners for this contest, my approach was simple: to select the best poems.  And by ‘best’ I mean, subjectively (as it must be), poems that resonated with vague thoughts and discomforts I’d never seen articulated before. I love to be startled by a poem, to think, Yes! So true! How come I never thought of that? 

I was less interested in what the poems were about and more in their poetics, particularly form, rhythm and imagery. I read every collection, from first poem to last, and many of them several times, particularly in selecting the runners-up and commended works. I was impressed by some highly original ideas for theming the poems, including a strange and wonderful puppet play, a series of vignettes based on the Beaufort scale, and a witty treatment of punctuation marks. 

In choosing my shortlist, I looked for poems that drew me in and surprised me with where they took me or with the inventiveness of their imagery.  There were strong contenders in both lyrical and narrative styles. Nearly a quarter qualified for serious consideration.

In such good company, I wondered how I would ever choose a winner. But as I reread my shortlist a few more times, the decision was straightforward.

Audrey Molloy

1st Place Winner

Shey Marque

Shey Marque is a former medical research scientist, and coordinator of the Hospital Poets Program with the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, Perth. Her first full-length poetry collection, Keeper of the Ritual (UWA Publishing 2019), was shortlisted for the Noel Rowe Poetry Award in 2017. She previously published a chapbook, Aporiac (Finishing Line Press USA, 2016) and has published extensively in Australian literary journals. In 2018 she was the inaugural winner of the Queensland Poetry Festival Emerging Older Poet Award. 

First poem from entry

Unberthed Shey Marque

Comments from the judge

The winning collection immediately triggered the upward creep of my eyebrows, from the compelling imperatives of the opening poem ‘Unberthed’ through each startling piece to the stark and witty conclusion.  This is assured and sharp writing. It was also one of the best collections in terms of form, with each poem beautifully presented on a new page in a fully-justified prose block. 


2nd Place Winner

Helen Reis

Helen Reid is an Anglo-Scot who has been writing for fifteen years. She has been published in the Iota Magazine and Mslexia. Helen is currently working on a poetry pamphlet. She lives in Oxford, where she cares for her disabled son as well as working as a learning support assistant for visually impaired child.

First Poem from entry


Press this shell to your ear
 
I met him on a northern winter shore, my silkie boy, 
his slippery kiss, it blanched my swollen lips
with brine. By early spring, my skin was cracked 
and wafer flakes broke off as he stroked
the blisters on my upturned face. 
Such brittle clumps dropped each time
he ran his fingers through my once fine hair,
that even he could see that I was sick 
with missing salt-free streams and meadow dew.
So he and I drove south through hedgerows,
green with fresh growth, flushed with budding. 
 
All the way he kept up such a sea pup keening, 
I had to toss a mermaid’s purse for him to chew, 
clamp a cowrie to his ear to make him sleep. 
I dug a pond deep in my orchard where each pink dawn 
he stripped down to his oily grey hide,  
lay mournful in his landlocked pit of mud. 
We nailed a tidal clock to the ceiling above our bed  
to mark the highs and lows, until the day 
I woke up in a sweet dry bed and found the cowrie  
on his pillow, so that now and then, on a stormy night, 
or a spring tide, I still can share his distant rushing joy.   

Comments from the judge

The second-placed chapbook stood out for its author’s command of poetics – particularly rhythm and cinematic imagery.  Hearing these poems in my head, the music of the iamb was evident. Tiny details, vividly evoked, such as the blister on a mother’s heel while sightseeing in high-heels, made me fall hard for this work.


Third Place Winner

Morag Anderson

Of Hebridean heritage, Morag Anderson was brought up on fireside stories and late-night kitchen tales. The relationship between land, sea, and family influences her writing. She is a member of the poetry collective, Poets’ Abroad. Her work appears in several anthologies (Scottish Writers’ Centre Island and Sea Chapbook, FWS High Tide, The Darg), on the Corbenic Poetry Path, in Popshot Magazine, Skylight 47, and the Scotsman. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2019 and won Over the Edge New Poet 2018. As part of Hamish Matters, she will perform at Stanza 2020.

First poem from entry

Night worker

Sitting in a square of light
you watch me undress,
eyes narrowed by years.


I anchor like a stain
where the sun’s daily arc
has faded your fabric.


You draw deep on my colour, 
olive-green edged in amber,
long after night has fallen.


Hunger pounds 
its hollow fist on my door
A need, more intimate


than the hush of thaw,
lashes my skin with cuts
no thicker than thread.


I am drifting and held,
a rowing boat 
tied to a tree.

Comments from the judge

The third-placed chapbook was a lyrical banquet of enviable economy.  Many of these poems were profoundly beautiful and I found myself wanting to reread them as soon as I reached the end. 

Highly commended poets:

Frank Farrelly
Margaret Mackay
Ellen Shelley

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